“What does any of this have to do with the Deer Riders?” asked the youngest clearly growing impatient even with his grandfather’s plunge into darkness.
“Oh that’s fine. Don’t you care what happened to me?”
The eldest coughed, “well grandfather, it seems you survived.”
“Well enough, but let me ask you. What does this tent have to do with me?”
All three boys looked confused, still, the youngest was bold enough to venture an opinion, “It’s where you live?”
“True, and couldn’t you learn something about me by where I live?”
” I guess. . .”
“Well, you are learning about the Deer Riders. Show some respect.”
“I fell into darkness, but I woke in a golden glowing cloud, in flames, on coals of fire, but I was not burned. The central hearth, where I sat, lit the hall with dancing gold, but it seemed the inhabitants were as bright. They whirled and leaped to the sound of pipe and drum, their faces were strange to me, their clothes, stranger, full of embroidery and darting, piping and checking and. . . Well I’d never seen the like.
There were gilded partitions and polished copper shields behind oil lamp sconces. The stonework even seemed to glow from the fires and too, perhaps, from the folk. I was too startled by it all to move out of the flames. I sat there like one of the logs that burned underneath me until I realized that there was a girl staring at me and laughing.
That I had not yet died screaming in flames had made me sure that I dreamed if not sure of anything else. Now I wondered, for here was someone in my vision who saw me. I moved toward her and she motioned to me as she rose and walked back into a darkened passageway. I glanced at the bright folk around me in their colors and embroidery. Now I saw tables laden with a feast and many more folk sitting in compartments watching the dancers and making merry.
The watchers looked through me, the dancers whirled around and even through me it seemed, and there in the shadows a little girl still laughed at me. I noticed her again and followed her. “You can see me. . .”
She spoke, but I couldn’t understand her words. She cocked her head and smiled brightly. She laughed again as I shook my head. She motioned to herself, “Jella” she said and then motioned to me. I told her my name and she spoke it so strangely that I laughed too. She motioned me to follow and went deeper into the shadows.
She pulled a loose stone from the wall. It was marked with a carving of a spiral and a creature that I thought might be an otter. She pulled a little lamp and a bottle of oil from the niche. She smiled and waited for my full attention. Then she showed me that there was a wick in the bottom of the lamp, she drew it out and set it as it should be to function, looking again for my understanding.
I nodded, “I know what a lamp is.” She smiled and chuckled, shrugging she unstopped the bottle, filled the lamp, and taking the wick out of its holder she dunked it in the oil and then placed it back in its correct position. She wiped away the excess oil, closed off the oil reservoir, and then looked at me again. She showed me a necklace she had around her neck. It was exotic and decorative, but she took it off and showed me that the pendant held a flint and steel. She prepared some tinder fluff and placed it where it could catch the wick afire but not the oil reservoir. A few practiced strikes and the lamp glowed to life.
She set the little lamp on a flat stone that protruded above the hidden niche and reaching in the nook drew out another lamp and oil bottle. She showed me these and then placed them and the flint and steel necklace back in the niche and stopped it all up with the carved stone.
She watched me until she knew she had my attention and my eyes were locked with hers. “You will need these when next you come,” I heard her say in my head though my ears heard something else. This is what I took from what she said though her words did not say that, being gibberish to me.
She took up her lamp and led me down the narrow sloping passage, “Souterrain,” she said. She laughed again to see my confusion. There was a great booming behind us. She held the lamp between us and her eyes held mine, “They are closing the outer doors for Samhain. Feel the breeze?”
And so I did or thought I did. I saw the breeze catch her fine golden hair and set it aflutter around her face. A breeze was coming from the darkness ahead, cool and rich with strange scents. The passage was narrow with stores crowding our way both left and right. We walked a long way it seemed to me. I recall her humming a song as we went, we descended a long slope and then again I felt that our way turned again upward, particularly toward the end.
I say end and there was one. Steeper and steeper our way bent. Then the light of the small lamp struck a wall. On closer inspection, the layers of the stone wall were set back as they rose, a steep stairway leading to a starry sky.
I looked once more at the girl. Her eyes looked golden in the lamp’s flame light and her smile sparkled. I thought to myself how lovely she was and how strange. “This will be your way Dream-walker. . .” she said and I knew without knowing her words. “. . .next time you come. The stars will lead you home.” At that moment the lamp guttered out and I was left in darkness, or very nearly so. From above, starlight shone and I followed it up and out.